It wasn't long ago that Iceland went broke. When the Global Financial Crisis hit, the country became a beggar. It couldn't pay its debts. The rest of the world ridiculed it.

So you could understand if its small population held its purses a little tighter than the rest of us. That's why its generosity to the Syrian refugees is so incredible.

When its Government said it would take only 50 refugees over two years, the people said that wasn't good enough.

Ten thousand of them said they'd help. They're not offering to stir pots in the soup kitchens once a month, or donate the old clothing taking up space in the spare bedroom's wardrobe. They're offering to let a Syrian refugee live in that spare bedroom.


They're offering to pay for the flight to get that refugee to Iceland.

Meanwhile, we're worrying about money.

"Time to be selfish and look after our own," wrote someone called Mickey Mouse in the comments at the bottom of my column last week.

I argued we should help at least some Syrians without a home. It is the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, after all.

"We have a finite amount of resources and there are an infinite amount of people wanting to come here," wrote Wayne.

"Our welfare system can barely cope as it is," worried Mike.

Amnesty International reckons it would cost only $10 million to double the 750 refugees we take a year. That kind of money is chump change to our Government.

It blew more than that sweetening up a rich Saudi businessman who packed a tanty at us. It spent more than that on an apartment in New York for one of our diplomats. It has given more than that in this year's Budget to help the kiwi, which we're already spending loads on saving.


If you do the numbers, that works out at just a little more than $13,000 a year per refugee we help.

In no time, they'll be out earning wages, paying the Government back in their taxes. By the time they earn $50,000, they'll have repaid the first year's cost of bringing them here.

If you're worried about them taking jobs from Kiwis, talk to the Clutha District mayor, who says there aren't enough people to fill the vacancies in his district. Or tell it to employers in Northland gagging for extra hands.

Or tell that to Norway, a country about our size but taking 30 times as many refugees as our annual total.

We're a wealthy country. While we debate whether we can afford to save the kiwi and some people at the same time, some of the world's poorest countries are getting on and doing it. It is estimated 86 per cent of the world's refugees are being helped by developing countries.

Back in 1944 we took our first official refugees. The 700-odd Polish orphans arrived in Wellington on a ship on the first day of November. We probably couldn't afford to take them. We'd spent too much on the war. Families were still on rations.

But we did. And now we're so proud, we've put a plaque on Wellington's waterfront.

We must help these Syrian refugees. We don't have to be as generous as Iceland. We don't have to be as empathetic as Norway. Just a few hundred would do.

That way you can still afford to put your diplomats up in lavish apartments.

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